What is the prevalence of retropharyngeal abscess (RPA) in the US?

Updated: Jan 08, 2021
  • Author: Joseph H Kahn, MD; Chief Editor: Gil Z Shlamovitz, MD, FACEP  more...
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United States

The incidence of pediatric RPA in the United States more than doubled in the first decade of the 21st century, according to a study of pediatric deep neck space infections. Deriving their statistics from the Kids’ Inpatient Database (KID), Novis et al found that between 2000 and 2009, the incidence of RPA increased from 0.1 cases per 10,000 to 0.22 cases per 10,000. They also found no significant change in the incidence of either peritonsillar or parapharyngeal abscess in those years. [13]

A study by Woods et al, also using the KID, reported the incidence of RPA to have risen, among children under age 20 years, from 2.98 per 100,000 population in 2003 to 4.10 per 100,000 population in 2012. [14]

A review of cases of RPA over an 11-year period at the Children's Hospital of Michigan revealed a 4.5-times increase in the incidence of RPA when compared with the previous 12 years. [15] A later review at the same hospital revealed that the incidence increased 2.8-fold between 2004 and 2010, compared with the incidence from 1993-2003. [16]

Similarly, an 11-year chart review of 162 pediatric patients with RPA at St. Louis Children's Hospital revealed that the number of RPA cases in children increased significantly from 1995 to 2006. [17]

A study by Angajala et al determined that of 119 pediatric patients in the greater Los Angeles community with a neck abscess treated with incision and drainage, 10.1% had an RPA. Patients with neck abscesses requiring incision and drainage tended to reside in lower income neighborhoods. [18]

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